COLUMN: Keep dad close, even when he’s not here

Published 9:15 am Saturday, June 15, 2024

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Father’s Day is tomorrow. For me, that entails mixed emotions each year since 2021.

Frank and Zack Maio from a day at Andalusia Manor in the winter of 2020.

It’s no secret to those who know me that my father Frank and I were not as close as my mother Linda and I were. During my childhood, we often clashed and had our differences with one another. Nevertheless, he is the only father I knew since I never knew my biological father. We did a paternity test on someone who looked exactly like me and closely resembled my pictures as I was growing up. Those results were hard to swallow when they came back and forced me to keep looking. Although it would be nice to know for genetic purposes, I have not had anyone else tested because Frank Maio was the only father I ever knew.

When my biological mother Faye gave birth to me at Andalusia Regional Hospital (now Andalusia Health), I was the first of her three boys. At times, I wish I knew who fathered me, but I am better off not knowing who that individual is. I turned 37 in May and count my blessings every day my mother chose to turn me over to my grandparents at birth. They raised me from that point and officially adopted me when I was 6 years old.

Several years ago, our family was informed my father had prostate cancer. This was difficult to accept, but we knew God would get him through treatments and any other ordeals. This made me realize I should have never taken my childhood for granted despite the many differences between my father and me. We butted heads and never saw eye-to-eye, but I still loved and cared for him because my parents raised me well. I would not be the man I am today if it were not for my mother and father.

My father underwent treatments and did his best to stay positive each time. When my sister Kim passed away in November 2016, she was just shy of what would have been her 50th birthday. It was around this time things got rough for my father. When my mother passed away in August 2019, her death was difficult for him to comprehend and proved to be something we still deal with every single day.

I never knew if my father had Alzheimer’s or dementia, but regardless of his diagnosis, it was not a pleasant time. Thankfully, the assistance we received from caregivers at Comfort Care Hospice (now Aveanna Hospice) and those at Andalusia Manor made things easier. I made many visits to my childhood home in Antioch after I moved out and spent quality time with my parents. We reminisced about all the good times and treasured those memories.

In May 2021, I received a phone call just before 7 p.m. and was informed my father had passed. He was only a month and 21 days shy of what would have been his 86th birthday. I went to the funeral home with other family members and prepared for his funeral. Although I did not get as emotional as I did at my mother’s funeral, this was still a difficult time for me.

I do not have someone I see as a father figure in the present day, but as I reflect on my father’s life, I thank God for being his son. He had his faults like the rest of us, but hey, nobody is perfect. I remember a lunch five years ago where he hugged me and said, “I love you, son.” That memory still sticks with me. I will visit the cemetery tomorrow and take a few minutes to speak to my father at his graveside.

I look forward to the day I see you again, Dad, and I know you are having a great time in heaven with Mom and Kim. I hope you are at ease up there and that I am making you proud here. We may not have been close, but I still love and miss you every single day.

Fathers everywhere, thank you for all you do in this world. Take this day and spend it with your spouse, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and any others you can. Celebrate those good times and do something special for your dad or the one you consider to be a father figure in your life today.

You never know what you have until you’ve lost it. I’d love to see my father again and speak to him face-to-face, but my visit to the cemetery will have to suffice. Tomorrow is your day in heaven, Old Man. Not only will I be speaking to you for Father’s Day, but we will also discuss your upcoming 89th birthday.

Happy Father’s Day to all from this writer who misses his dad more than words could ever say!